The dedication in my next-to-most-recent book reads: For my parents, who said “Wonderful!” and not “How do you expect to make a living at that?” when I declared a major in classics
Since 1984, I’ve been teaching at a university that regularly makes it to those lists of “Top 20 colleges in the United States.” Parents rightly expect a lot from the kids whose expensive educations they are funding. Still, I sometimes wonder at their priorities. I’ve had more than one student tell me that their parents will pay their tuition only if they take pre-med courses, or if they major in something “practical,” like engineering, and if they really love art history—well, that’s what minors are for.
When I hear these stories I can offer only my sympathy. If my parents had made those restrictions, I don’t know where I would have wound up. I probably would have made more money than I have over 27 years of teaching and 18 of writing for young readers, but I'm sure I would have been miserable. And I don’t think I would have become a writer. Everything I learned in my classes helped fashion the kind of writer I am and the kind of writing I do—not only the historical fiction set in the classical world, but the nonfiction, the mysteries set in the current time, everything.
The gift of a liberal-arts education was costly, but it was one my parents were happy to make. And I’ll be forever grateful.